Children First National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children
Children First is the national guidance on child welfare and protection. It states what organisations need to do to keep children safe, and what different bodies, and the general public, should do if they are concerned about a child’s safety and welfare. The Guidance sets out specific protocols for HSE social workers, Gardaí and other front line staff in dealing with suspected abuse and neglect of children.
If you have a child welfare or protection concern which you want to discuss or report, please telephone you local HSE Child and Family Services Duty Social Worker. Click here to view the list of HSE Child and Family Services duty social work phone lines by county.
Children First Guidance
The Guidance deals with the recognition, reporting and management of child safety concerns. It sets out a number of key messages relating to the duty to protect children. Among these are:
- that the safety and welfare of children is everyone’s responsibility;
- that children will have safer lives, where everyone is attentive to their wellbeing; and
- that people who work with children across a range of areas understand their personal responsibility for safe practice in their organisation, the reporting of concerns and co-operation with statutory bodies.
For more information on specific aspects of the Guidance please follow the links below:
- What is Children First?
- Who is Children First for?
- What responsibility do organisations have?
- Why do we need a new or revised set of Guidance?
- How will this Guidance make children safer?
- How will we know if everyone is working within the Guidance?
- Where can I get more information?
Children First Launch - Press Statements and Speeches
Children First - Key Messages
HSE Statement: Children First National Guidance 2011
Garda Statement: Children First National Guidance 2011
Proposed Children First Legislation
The Programme for Government 2011 commits to underpinning aspects of the Children First Guidance on a statutory basis. On 25th April 2012, Frances Fitzgerald TD, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs published the Heads of the Children First Bill l (See related Press Release). The purpose of the Bill is to ensure that organisations and professionals who work with children have a statutory responsibility to report reasonable concerns about the abuse or neglect of children in their care to the HSE Child and Family Services.
The Minister asked the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children to consider the Heads of the Children First Bill and make recommendations to her, and received the Report of the Committee in July 2012 (Read Report).
The Heads of Bill are currently being revised based on feedback received and work is ongoing on the preparation of Legislation.
HSE Child Protection and Welfare Practice Handbook
In July 2011, Minister Fitzgerald launched the HSE Child Protection and Welfare Handbook that was developed by the National Office for Child and Family Services in the HSE. The handbook is based on protocols as set out in the Children First National Guidance for the Protection and Welfare of Children 2011 to support the work of social workers and other relevant practitioners in dealing with child protection and welfare cases.
Our Duty to Care
Our Duty to Care was published by the Department of Health and Children. It is aimed at staff and volunteers of community and voluntary organisations that provide services for children. It is a practical handbook offering guidance on the promotion of child welfare and the development of safe practices in work with children. It also gives information on how to recognise signs of child abuse and the steps to take within organisations if abuse is suspected, witnessed or disclosed.
DCYA Child Protection Policy and Code of Behaviour for working with Children and Young People
The Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) is fully committed to safeguarding the well-being of all the children and young people with whom it works. The DCYA is committed to promoting the rights of the child, including the participation of children and young people in matters that affect them.
As the body with responsibility for driving and monitoring the implementation of the National Children's Strategy, the DCYA is committed to promoting and facilitating the full participation of children and young people in its work. The DCYA aims to create a safe and healthy environment for the young people with whom it works and is committed at all times to ensuring their safety and welfare.
The protocol sets out what this Department needs to adhere to in the activities that we engage children with. The child protection protocol is operated by the DCYA based on Children First –
National Guidance and Our Duty to Care – The Principles of Good Practice for the Protection of Children and Young People. In accordance with these documents, it is good practice for all organisations that have contact with children and young people to introduce a child protection policy/protocol. This helps to provide safeguards and support for children and staff when they are working together.